Although I have some staple go-to recipes, if you asked me who the cook was in the family the answer would probably be Ryan… I’m trying to get better with meal planning especially with soon having TWO boys in the house (Michael is less than 4 weeks away!). While thinking ahead and knowing I’ll be adjusting to having a newborn in the house… the thought of having yummy dinners prepared by the time Ryan gets home from work seemed far fetched. We rarely have all the ingredients to a recipe on-hand and I doubt I’ll be wanting to get dressed in those early weeks, load up Michael in the car, just to head to the grocery store because the recipe calls for beef bouillon cubes…
So, the search on Pinterest began for some help with preparing freezer meals to pop into the crockpot in the morning so I could, as they say, “set it and forget it!”. We barely use our crockpot throughout the year to make delicious warm meals… but with cooler weather upon us, this is going to change! Crockpot meals are the best — so easy (once the prepping is done) and delicious smells fill your home throughout the day!
There are tons of blog posts out there on this topic. Since this was my first time prepping freezer meals, I didn’t want anything too complicated, wanted the meals to be healthy, and also offer some variety. I came across one site in particular that caught my attention… “20 Slow Cooker Freezer Meals in 4 Hours“. They even save you time by providing the shopping list. Prepping 20 meals will feed a family for almost 3 weeks (or more!) depending on how often you cook at home and if you like leftovers. You don’t have to cook them all at once either — we plan to spread ours out across this Fall/Winter. I can see 20 meals lasting us a long time with only 2 adults in the house and a breastfeeding newborn baby (even with a begging chocolate lab… Henry, our furbaby, is always hungry)! Especially since we won’t plan on cooking a meal every night so we’ll have lots of leftovers to enjoy and might venture out a bit too. I’m excited about trying this out because it will save us time and money to prep in advance, less stress (!!), and offers us lots of options on what’s for dinner. We invested in a deep freezer for the garage earlier this year (love Costco!) so we plan to store our freezer meals in there but these 20 meals will also fit in a standard fridge freezer if you can make room.
It took me about 15-20 minutes to search through my kitchen to see what we already had on hand, another 20-30 minutes to label all of the ziplock bags with the name of the meal and instructions, roughly 1 hour at the grocery store gathering supplies, and another 1.5 hours prepping all the meals.
It certainly helps to have a cooking buddy for this project. Ryan and I made a good team dividing and conquering! He did all the slicing/dicing/chopping and I did all the spices/sauces/etc. At 36-weeks pregnant, I was exhausted by the time we were done but I was so very relieved to know that we had 20 delicious freezer meals prepped and ready!!
I already had all the spices and few other items in my kitchen so our grocery bill for the rest of the supplies came to roughly $200 (with a Martin’s bonus card). That’s only $10 a meal for two (and we’re sure to have leftovers!)! Such a good deal!
SO! If I’ve convinced you to try out prepping these 20 freezer meals for your family… here’s what you need to do!!
- Purchase a crockpot if you don’t already have one (programmable versions are nice to have!)
- I saved you a few steps and already organized a list of all the meals, the shopping list, and the corresponding recipes… you can click here to view and print. You’re welcome! 🙂
- Go through your kitchen and cross off the shopping list items that you already have on-hand. This will save you money at the grocery store so you aren’t doubling up on items like spices, broths, and other household staples
- Go get your meal prepping supplies — don’t forget the 20 gallon-sized freezer bags! I would suggest purchasing your meat in bulk — warehouse stores like Costco, Sam’s Club, BJ’s, etc. are great for this!
- Once you get home, spread out everything on the counter that you purchased, as well as, the items on the shopping list that you already had on-hand
- Next, you’ll want to label all of your ziplock bags with the name of the meal, the cooking times, and if you need to add anything to the recipe when you place it in/out of the slow cooker (i.e., pasta, rice, etc.).
- Next, cook any of the meat that needs to be cooked in advance according to the recipes. Make sure it cools off before putting it in your specified freezer bags.
- Next, start slicing, dicing, and chopping your veggies and fruit. You can organize them into bowls so when you’re ready to measure and put them into bags it’s faster. We ended up just slicing/dicing as we went through each meal we prepped to ensure we put the right amount in each bag.
- Clean all the dishes and put away any remaining items like your spices, etc.
- Take a deep breath (and pour yourself a glass of wine!). You did it!… 20 freezer meals prepped for your family!
One final tip… I printed out a list of all the meals (put it in a sheet protector) and taped it onto my freezer so when we pull out a freezer meal we can cross it off the list. This way you’ll easily know what meals you have left to enjoy and you can make notes next to the meal if your family liked it or not as you may want to double up with your next freezer meal batch! If you want to take your OCD-ness a step further… you can organize your meals in the freezer according to the order on the printed list so you can quickly grab your desired meal without digging through them all.